Oliver Crisp on Edwardsian Panentheism

oliver-crisp_god-and-creation_coverOliver Crisp draws swords in his book, "Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation", and assails all of Edward's most controversial ideas, including Edwards famous writings on Occasionalism, Idealism in the Trinity, Continuous Creationism, Panentheism, Double Predestination and more! This book contains excellent summaries and critiques of Jonathan Edward's speculative theology. Crisp explains what Edward's believes, how others have gotten Edwards wrong all along, and exposes the real problems with Edward's novel ideas. I was surprised how critical Crisp was of Edwards over all, and even though Crisp was right, I had hoped to hear some arguments on how the problems may be worked through in Edward's theology but the results seem to be a cul-de-sac. 

Here's an excellent example of how Crisp was able to summarize Jonathan Edward's position on Panentheism: 

P1. The world exists "in" God. (Call this the core thesis.)

P2. God is not the world. God and the world are distinct entities. (The antipantheism thesis)

P3. God is essentially creative. He must create a world because it is in his nature to create a world. He is "disposed" to create a world. (The essential divine creativity. (The necessity of creation thesis.)

P4. Although it is radically contingent on divine fiat, this world is the necessary product of God's essential creativity. (The necessity of creation thesis).

P5. The world is created by eternal divine fiat, though it begins to exist in time. (The eternal creation thesis.)

P6. God must create the best possible world. (The best possible world thesis.)

P7. The created world is ideal; it exists in the divine mind. (The immaterial antirealist thesis.)

P8. God continuously creates the world ex nihilo. God eternally decrees that no created thing persists through time; each "moment" of creation is numerically distinct from the previous one; God constitutes these many world-stages as one four-dimensional entity, namely, "the world" (i.e., the created order). (The four-dimensionalist continuous creation thesis.)

P9. God is the sole causal agent, that is, the efficient cause of all that comes to pass. (The occasionalist thesis.)

- Oliver Crisp, Jonathan Edwards On God And Creation, pg142-144

Crisp does an excellent job exposition the problems with Edwardsian Divine Excellency, Occassionalism-Continuous Creationism, Consummation and many other topics. Maybe he will produce another volume on Edward's Ecclesiastical Writings!  Overall, this is an excellent book, that anyone who has studied Jonathan Edward's speculative theology would deeply appreciate. Crisp may have won the battle, but the Sage of Northampton will win the war!


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  1. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism, the Trinity, and panentheism, please check out my website at http://www.religiouspluralism.ca. It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or “Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the “body of Christ” (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao; involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas identified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    For more details, please see: http://www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

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